Nov. 4, 2011
COLUMBIA, S.C. – The 25th-ranked South Carolina men’s soccer team (9-6-2, 6-1-1 CUSA) closed its regular season with a 2-2 draw against the Kentucky Wildcats (9-9-2, 2-5-1 CUSA) on Friday night. With the tie, the Gamecocks earned a share of the C-USA regular-season title. South Carolina’s 19 points in conference play matched that of UAB. The Gamecocks will have the No. 1 seed in next week’s conference tournament by virtue of a 1-0 win over UAB earlier this season.
The Gamecocks outshot the Wildcats by an 18-15 margin and also held a convincing 19-0 margin in corner kicks on the night. Junior forward Mike Mangotic notched his second and third goals of the year as the lone scorer for Carolina and paced the team with five shots. Sophomore Bradlee Baladez added four shots to the offensive effort. South Carolina goalkeeper Alex Long and defender Danny Cates each collected an assist in the tie.
“It has been a wild week for our guys,” South Carolina head coach Mark Berson said. “First of all, we had to play this game tonight on a pretty short turnaround. Kentucky had a bit of a rest. We played Tuesday afternoon down in Florida in an overtime game that we won with 30 seconds left in a really hard-fought game with Central Florida. That was a really big game for us in the conference and on a national level with UCF being ranked as high as No. 9 during the course of the year. For our kids to come back and get adjusted and ready to go was a big challenge, but they have risen to the challenge all year. This was a team that started the season at 1-4-1 and now we’re conference champions. You can’t say anything better than that. That sums it all up.
“Could we have played better tonight, yes we could have. We could have been a little bit sharper. We weren’t really that sharp in the Central Florida game and we really weren’t sharp in this game, but we competed. And we made plays and I am really proud of what the guys accomplished tonight. It was a good result for us. It gets us the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament and now we are going to go see what we can do in the conference tournament.”
The Gamecocks had a chance to go up early in the ninth minute as senior Vance Benson and Baladez worked the ball along the left side of Kentucky’s half. Baladez fed a lead pass to Trevor Hubbard who was making a run up the line. The sophomore midfielder played a ball into the box that found Baladez on a diagonal run, but his possession was stifled as the Kentucky defense gathered to knock the ball out of the back.
Kentucky marked the board first in the 22nd minute as sophomore midfielder Ryan Costen collected a free ball in the midfield and took a touch to the attacking third. Costen then played a through ball to Tappel at the top of the 18-yard box who struck a right footed shot into the top corner of the net to make the score 1-0 in favor of the Wildcats
The Gamecocks leveled the match early in the second half as sophomore goalkeeper Alex Long launched a lofting goal kick in the 48th minute that bounced untouched into the Kentucky box. Mangotic ran the ball down and headed it over the Kentucky keeper and into the back of the net for his second goal of the year. Long was credited for his first career assist on the play.
Mangotic threatened to snag his second goal of the match in the 64th minute as midfielder Niklas Kivinen struck a lofted ball over the Kentucky back line that released Mangotic into the attacking area. Kentucky keeper Jack Van Arsdale quickly charged off of his line to barely keep Mangotic from slotting home a second of the match.
Kentucky reclaimed the lead in the 75th minute, as sophomore forward Tyler Riggs finished a ball into the box by Dylan Asher to make the score 2-1 Wildcats.
Quickly after the Wildcat goal, the Garnet and Black were awarded a penalty kick in the 77th minute on a foul five yards out from frame. Morrisey struck a ball with pace towards the right post, but Van Arsdale dove to make a save that preserved the Wildcat lead.
Carolina pulled even soon after in the 83rd minute though, as Cates connected with Mangotic on a ball into the box. Mangotic settled and quickly turned to work his way to the center of the box, ripping a low shot to the back post to slot home his second of the match and third of the year.
With 17 seconds remaining, Kentucky penetrated the South Carolina box looking for the game winner. After a deflection, the ball bounced to the feet of Kentucky’s Jacob Kemper who struck a shot on one touch that was saved by Long to force the first of two sudden death overtime periods.
The game would head to overtime where the teams would continue to trade offensive chances. With 59 seconds remaining in the first period, junior defenseman Kevin Stam was shown a red card after a foul on a Kentucky forward just outside of the South Carolina 18-yard box. Kentucky’s Steven Perinovic restarted play with a direct free kick to the top left corner of the South Carolina goal that was saved by an incredible one-handed effort by Long that preserved the score.
The two sides played the second overtime period scoreless and the Gamecocks clinched ownership of at least a share of the conference title. The championship is the first C-USA regular season title for the Gamecocks and the second conference title overall.
South Carolina heads to Tulsa, Oklahoma for the Conference USA tournament as the No. 1 seed next week. Final seeding for the event will be released by the conference office on Sunday.